Genome instability is a characteristic enabling factor for carcinogenesis. HelQ helicase is a component of human DNA maintenance systems that prevent or reverse genome instability arising during DNA replication. Here, we provide details of the molecular mechanisms that underpin HelQ function—its recruitment onto ssDNA through interaction with replication protein A (RPA), and subsequent translocation of HelQ along ssDNA. We describe for the first time a functional role for the non-catalytic N-terminal region of HelQ, by identifying and characterizing its PWI-like domain. We present evidence that this domain of HelQ mediates interaction with RPA that orchestrates loading of the helicase domains onto ssDNA. Once HelQ is loaded onto the ssDNA, ATP-Mg2+ binding in the catalytic site activates the helicase core and triggers translocation along ssDNA as a dimer. Furthermore, we identify HelQ-ssDNA interactions that are critical for the translocation mechanism. Our data are novel and detailed insights into the mechanisms of HelQ function relevant for understanding how human cells avoid genome instability provoking cancers, and also how cells can gain resistance to treatments that rely on DNA crosslinking agents.